Let’s Take a Look at a Do-What? (Doo-lah)

Childbirth is a transformative experience that requires physical, emotional, physiological, and mental health support. Doulas have become a staple in maternity caregiving spaces. They provide women with the care and support they need during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Where did this practice originate?

The origins of doulas can be traced back to ancient Greece where women supported each other during childbirth. The word doula comes from the Greek word “doule” which means female servant.  In modern usage, we like to say, “one who mothers the mother.” Now, there are many different cultures, not just the one mentioned above, where women have been supporting women in their communities from day one. 

Women supporting women have been throughout history. In many cultures, midwives took on the support role while in others you might have found a mother, grandmother, or other female members and people of the community who provided this type of care.  For purposes of this article, black women have always held that supportive role for one another.

In 1619, African people were brought to this country to work in fields to build an economic structure that is second to none. They cared for their white masters and their families, in addition to building this country into what it is today, the most powerful nation in the world.  The white slaveholder continued importing African slaves until 1807 when, at this time, slaves coming to America was made illegal. The white slaveholder knew that in order to continue his financial success, he would need to have a continual workforce (more babies).

Fast forward. Legislative action combined with racist propaganda was used to change an entire healthcare system. Not only did it change our ancestral way of birthing and caring for the mother, but life. These changes have contributed to the development of health and reproductive disparities that persist to this day in our communities. Today, there are fewer than 10% of midwives of color across the nation. Their role changed with the emergence of medical obstetrics.  

The need for black and brown birth workers is crucial now more than ever. Representation is everything. With the surge in the black maternal health crisis — more woman who look like our mothers, sisters, aunties, besties, dying during childbirth, being bullied or mistreated because of their skin color, financial demographic, insurance or even marital status — is unforgivable. Our community feels exposed and unsafe in these spaces. They just want to have their babies and go home.

Why Black Doulas?

Doulas are birth workers who don’t give medical advice; instead, they offer mental, physical, and emotional support to mothers and their families. Doulas also teach families to advocate for themselves. Doulas make sure to pass along information (evidence based) to a family so they can make the best decision concerning their birth and labor. They can help a mother create a birth plan that includes something as simple as being able to move around the room while laboring, support her breastfeeding journey, and provide postpartum support if needed.  Doulas are the calm in the midst of the storm. They provide somewhat of a safe haven just by simply being there and letting that woman know that she is not alone. It’s ministry, it’s advocacy, and it’s social and reproductive justice at best. 

Is a Doula right for you?

Yes! Every pregnant woman deserves a doula regardless of financial status. Check your insurance as some covers doula expenses. State insurance programs across the nation have begun to cover doula services. It’s still a process in some states. But it’s moving toward a goal. Doula services can range from $500 and up. Some doulas may offer a sliding scale or have reduced rates for families in need. 

How to Choose a Doula? 

Meet with her at a neutral place to talk.

Share your concerns, what you need and what is most important to you for your birthing experience.

Ask about her experience (be mindful there are doulas that are new with limited experience but still eager to support).

Does she offer postpartum support?

Ask questions. Write down notes. Look for signs that make you feel comfortable.

Ask her philosophy on birth and her belief system if it makes you feel comfortable. It’s good to have a praying doula! Spiritual and cultural alignment is always beautiful.

And lastly, how much does it cost? Is a payment plan or sliding scale available? 

Do you have questions about doulas?  Are you pregnant? Are you a new mother in need of postpartum support? Contact us:

Darcel Forde is a Certified Birth Doula and the owner of “In the Laborhood” serving North Alabama. Find her IG @the_laborhood or her website: www.inthelaborhood.com.

CARLA CREECH, , Owner of Soul Therapy Massage Birth & Wellness, is Clinical Massage Therapist,

Certified Birth/Postpartum Doula for over 20 years, serving CT, NY, NJ areas. Find her on IG@soul_therapy_2 balancetherapy96@gmail.com.


This article is part of our 2024 March/April Issue
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